Plug In Ventures Cohort 3 at the 2022 Urban Tech Connect Conference. (Courtesy Photo)

Plug In Ventures, a growing tech community in South Los Angeles, has received a grant of $1 million from the California Office of Small Business Advocate (CalOSBA), through the Accelerate California program, to help further their mission of supporting diverse, early-stage startups in underserved neighborhoods.

The non-profit organization will receive $250,000 per year over the next four years to empower Black and Brown companies and advance several key initiatives. The grant comes at a pivotal moment in the entrepreneurial landscape, where diversity, equity, and inclusion are revered, but also ignored.

Related Links:

Plug In Ventures Secures $1M Grant To Boost Black And Brown Entrepreneurship In Tech (

Diversifying Tech; Discussing Derek Smith’s Plug In South LA and How He’s Equalizing the Tech Industry for Black and Latinx Communities (

Plug In South LA’s Founder Pivots to a Virtual Experience to Connect Black and Brown Communities – AfroTech

Derek Smith, founder and CEO, is connecting the dots between an entrepreneur’s dreams and the resources that make them come true. The L.A. native is reinvesting into his community with two progressive programs that track, engage, and validate new business owners through investment, mentorship, commercial expansion, and business development. Their Tech Accelerator Program and the Power Huddle Series provide consistent resources, weekly help, and access to other highly successful entrepreneurs.

Accelerate California is designed to diversify the state’s innovation economy by providing operational support for 13 inclusive innovation hubs across the state. Each hub is charged with opening the innovative ecosystem in its geographical service area to new founders and new industries. The grant will help Plug In Ventures to expand its initiatives, provide critical resources, and create opportunities for entrepreneurs who have historically faced barriers to success.

Derek Smith & Ibert Schultz. (Courtesy Photo)

The newly acquired funding will expand the accelerator and incubation programs that offer training tailored to meet the specific needs of minority entrepreneurs, introduce access to capital which is a significant portion of the funding directed towards creating avenues to secure much-needed capital, strengthen community outreach through networking events, and implement educational initiatives designed to equip founders with the skills and knowledge required for success in the modern business world.

After 15 years in New York, Smith moved his family back to Los Angeles after realizing the disparities in tech and the lack of access in Black communities. Areas like Venice, Santa Monica, Playa Vista, and the famous Silicon Valley, are some of the only pockets in the city that encourage tech innovation and discovery.

While discussing South L.A.’s potential as an emerging tech hub, Smith shared, “Black and Brown-led companies and investors are part of the larger ecosystem. The goal is to bring the entrepreneurs from the community into this global marketplace as innovators and creators rather than consumers.

“We need to make sure this next generation of talent are coming out of our communities and high schools like Crenshaw, Dorsey, Washington, and Manual Arts. Our kids need to see that they have a place in the marketplace as an innovator, creator, and owner, because if you can see that you can be that. We believe at Plug In Ventures that the next wave of Google employees can come from our community and make an impact not just locally or nationally, but globally.”

In addition to helping startup companies, Plug In provides support to established businesses by building on their foundation to elevate what is already working. Their extensive programs create opportunities to solve other direct and indirect issues that plague under resourced communities.

“We want to be a part of the equation in terms of how we approach business. It’s not only about creating and seeing millionaires and billionaires, but that is all purposeless if we can’t anchor that around our collective community to ensure that there is representative into the top quality of life metrics and not the bottom,” Smith said.

Plug In Ventures also lends their tech resources to those looking to invest in startup companies, individuals looking to grow and scale their business with their existing customer base, and foster investor connections or company partnerships. The grant will greatly help expand their reach in L.A. tech.

Smith hopes to see the number of companies Plug In helps secure investment grow conservatively by 10% to 20% by 2025 and expand into new sectors like automation, healthcare, and digital technology.

“The generous grant represents a significant milestone for Plug In Ventures,” said Smith.

“With the support of CalOSBA and Governor Gavin Newsom’s Office, we can accelerate our efforts to level the playing field for Black and Brown entrepreneurs who face systemic challenges.”